SADHANA (SPIRITUAL PRACTICES) AND SADHYAM (GOAL)
Sadhana are the various spiritual practices and sadhyam is the goal. There are many sadhanas for a single goal. ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ meaning ‘You are Brahman’ – these are the strong words of the Upanishads. However, in my real life I am not able to realize this profound concept. Whether I realize it or not, aware of it or not, accept it or reject it, this is the reality and it does not change. It is true for the three times – the past, present and the future. I do not need to go to any particular place or do any particular practice to become Brahman. I am already Brahman. Even though, I am Brahman I am not able to realize it or identify with Brahman. At present, I identify with my body, mind and ego. When I identify with my body I am aware of my physical features like I am tall, fat, lean, my complexion, my nationality, my family, relatives etc. When I identify with my mind then I am aware of my emotions like I am sad, I am happy, I am angry etc. When I identify with my intellect then I aware of my educational qualification, my status, my position, what I know, what I do not know etc. Always I am identifying with any one of these during the waking state. My real identity as Brahman does not seem to be real at present. When the Upanishads say something, there is no contradiction in it. However, in life I do not feel that ‘I am Brahman’. Why is this discrepancy? The main reason for this discrepancy is ignorance.
Ignorance hides our real nature. The whole process of Advaita philosophy and various other spiritual practices are to remove this ignorance and make a person aware of his true nature. We always identify with our body, mind and ego. They are all transient. All the spiritual practices are to make one realize that he is Brahman. There is a subtle point here. Many people think that the spiritual practices are to make one Brahman or to become Brahman. Some people think that the spiritual sadhanas like mediation, poojas, and various other rituals are the ultimate goal itself. The fact is we are already Brahman. However, we do not realize it. The spiritual practices remove ignorance and make one realize that he is Brahman. Brahman alone exists.
When the problem is ignorance, the solution is knowledge. To dispel ignorance one need to know about the ignorance itself. The next question is, ‘What am I ignorant off’? I am ignorant of the fact that I am unlimited and infinite. In what way does this ignorance affect my life? Due to this ignorance, I always feel non-content and I need something external to make me complete. Thus, desire arises in the mind. I perform actions to satisfy my desires. Once I perform an action and wait for the result, then I am caught in the network of karma phala and the cycle goes on and on. The result is delusion and misery.
In the traditional way, Advaita philosophy dispels ignorance in three steps. They are shravana, manana and nididhyasana. Knowledge comes from reading and listening to scriptures. Listening is a very important practice in which all the other practices culminate. Shravana is reading and listening to scriptures, manana is reasoning and thinking about the received knowledge and nididhyasana is assimilating or meditating on the received knowledge. Advaita philosophy is based on the pure knowledge. It is the intellectual way of understanding the reality. One has to repeat nididhyasana until the knowledge dissolves in the person. Till then it is only a bookish knowledge. It is not easy for the mind to grasp the truth. One has to own this knowledge by assimilating this knowledge.
When we do shravana and manana the knowledge is well established in the intellect. Intellect is in the vinjanamaya kosa. This knowledge must be practiced by the mind in the manomaya kosa, only then it gives real transformation in a person. Due to the viparitha bhavanas in the mind this knowledge easily slips from the mind. Therefore, this knowledge must be well established in the mind. Repeated practice of nididhyasana will establish this knowledge in the mind. When we do various practices from the other yogas like karma yog, bhakti yog and meditation etc it gives chitta shuddhi (purity of mind) and chitta ekagrata (concentration of mind). When the mind is pure and focused, it helps the mind to grasp the higher truth. Because of the impurities, the mind finds difficult to do any spiritual practice. The solution to chitta malam(impurities of the mind) is chitta shuddhi, which is mainly attained by karma yog and bhakti yog. Chitta ekagrata is attained by meditation. By doing meditation the scattered mind becomes focused and it helps shravana and manana. If the problem is scattering of mind then the solution is meditation. Meditation gives ekagrata (concentration power). Meditation and other spiritual practice will not give knowledge. They make the mind fit to grasp the ultimate truth. Only the sruti pramanas give pure knowledge. Chitta shuddhi and chitta ekagrata helps to gain jnana (knowledge). Jnana (knowledge) helps to realize Brahman, our true identity.
Therefore the various spiritual practices like bhakti, karma yog, meditation, upasana, sharavana, manana, nididhyasana are all various sadhanas. The goal (sadhyam) is realization of the reality. The reality is ‘I am Brahman’. Various spiritual sadhanas help realization. Chitta shuddhi (purity of mind ) and chitta ekagrata (concentration of the mind) also helps realization. The fact or reality is we are already Brahman. We do not want to become Brahman. Aham Brahma asmi.